Air Force, Army medical exercise concludes at Misawa
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Airmen from the 35th Medical Group and Soldiers from the 228th Combat Support Hospital in San Antonio, Texas, completed a joint medical exercise here, Aug. 26.
During the exercise MEDEX 16, Soldiers integrated their assets, personnel and procedures with those of Airmen, increasing the capabilities of Misawa's medical treatment facility with more medical professionals, supplies and services, while also providing training for potential contingency operations.
"Our operational readiness plan requires us to be able to expand the capabilities of the hospital," said Air Force Maj. Wendy Wilkins, surgical services flight commander assigned to the 35th Medical Group. "This includes the [228th CSH] coming and back filling us, if a disaster happens requiring us to stand up a combat hospital at Misawa."
The training started Aug. 22 with introductions, medical orientations and the pairing of Air Force and Army counterparts to work shifts at the hospital together. Over the following two days, the Army medics worked alongside Airmen taking in patients and providing patient care. Aug. 25 and 26 consisted of the exercise portion, during which the effectiveness of integrating Army medical staff was evaluated.
The end result was the enhancement of U.S. Army and Air Force medics' ability to work together and streamline medical processes to provide better care for their patients.
"It's not just about bringing over Army procedures and how we do things; we also learned how the Air Force operates and how [Airmen] do their jobs as well," said Army Capt. D'Andrea Buggs, a medical surgical nurse assigned to the 228th CSH. "It gave us a chance to learn how we work together and learn how we're going to operate with each other [in the future]."
In addition to Army doctors and nurses, a group of Army biomedical technicians were also present to learn from their counterparts and handle any equipment issues.
"There are four of us BMEDS here to do maintenance support," said Army Sgt. Brandon Swanner, a biomedical equipment repair technician assigned to the 228th CSH. "I was able to pick apart the Air Force BMED's minds and see how they go about handling their equipment maintenance and supporting their medical teams in situations like joint missions."
MEDEX 16 provided other unique opportunities for the participants, including training with real patients rather than scenario based ones. The presence of Army medical experts allowed for additional surgeries to take place at Misawa AB, saving costs and eliminating the need to send patients elsewhere for treatment.
"We provided 22 surgeries with a savings of $256,000 in services for our patients that we usually cannot provide in our facility," said Wilkins. "Having a plastic surgeon, a urologist and a hands specialist coming into our facility made a huge difference."
Over the course of two weeks, MEDEX 16 provided not only medical training and experiences, but also created friendships and comradery across services.
"It was a wonderful experience and a valuable sharing of resources and manpower with many lessons learned for further training opportunities and disaster contingency operations," added Wilkins.